Egyptian civilization is the result of one of the six cultures that arose independently and is considered one of the most ancient civilizations of the world dating back to 4000 B.C… Cairo is the capital city of Egypt, and it is always associated with the ancient Egypt because pyramids and the ancient city of Memphis are located in this area. Cairo is also known as “the city of thousand minarets” because of its Islamic architecture. Cairo is famous for many things like it has the oldest music and film industries in the Arab world and the world’s second oldest learning institute “Al-Azhar University”.
Other facts about Cairo
Apart from these culturally rich sites and civilization for which Cairo is known, it suffers from significant quantities of pollution and traffic. Few of the world’s esteemed artifacts are present here in Cairo, and it is the still standing wonder of the ancient world. Most of the tour guides in Cairo include in their list only the pyramids and the museums where antiques are located, neglecting all the local cultures and the diverse faces of Cairo. Cairo can be described in terms of dyadic pairs like it has luxury places as well as a lot of poverty, it is culturally rich, but illiteracy still haunts it, and the city contains both the most beautiful and ugliest places. Here is a list of suggestions on how to spend time in Cairo.
1. Al-Azhar Park
Dinner at Al-Azhar Park just before sunset is a very good idea; it gives you a view of the city from above and the sun setting behind pyramids. Visiting the Citadel is also lovely because you won’t find any cars here. You can just stroll and take the pictures of the city from above. Narrow alleys in these areas are perfect for roaming, and the roofs of mosques present a view that is fascinating. You can also enjoy a felucca ride on the boat in the river Nile just to enjoy the silence and calmness. Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx are a must watch things – most people spend their entire tour exploring and enjoying these places.
2. Best Neighborhoods in Cairo
Visiting those places which are on tour guides is a good idea but if you want to explore the native cultures and different social aspects of any particular society you need to visit more than famous places. Visiting residential areas and the neighborhoods is a good idea in this case. The suburbs of Cairo are so large that Maadi alone contains 2 million people. The community worthy of exploring is “Wust-El-Balad”; you can have a view of this place by “Cairo at Night” bus tour, and if you like this place, you can further explore it on your own. Egyptian Museum and Tahrir Square are also present in this area. You might be intimidated at first by the chaos and noise, but once you see the entire area, you will fall in love with it. Another place in this area is “Coptic Cairo” where you can see the christen graveyards and churches.
3. Where to eat in Cairo?
When it comes to the matter of food, you will have lots of choices in Cairo. You can try good meals at very low cost at Felfela Takeaway; you can eat falafel sandwich here with price as low as 0.25USD. A typical mixture of pasta, lentils, and meat – called Koshary – is also famous and if you want to try it, visit Abou Tarek near Tahrir Square. If you are fancying a dinner in a beautiful restaurant, do not forget to visit Restaurant at Al-Azhar Park. There are also many Italian restaurants available in Cairo, even though prices are little high, the food is delicious. You can also visit McDonalds and Pizza Hut – it’s a local habit.
4. Best Place for a Night on the Town
If you want to see the Islamic culture at its fullest, visit Bayt el Harawi at night. You will enjoy all sorts of Sufi dances here with whirling dervishes and with the background of Middle Eastern music. If you are hoping for a party, there are different clubs like Buddha Bar, Stiletto, and Purple, etc. Most of these clubs are present on still boats in the river Nile. Apart from music and party enjoyment, the scene of the river itself is worth watching. Street cafes are the local culture of the Egypt; you can sit in the chairs for hours, and you can smoke and play card games.
5. Where to Stay in Cairo
The choice of accommodation will depend on whether you are a budget traveler or a luxury traveler.
Renting a house or an apartment is the best option if you are staying for more than two weeks and it is even cheaper than budget travels. There are also many hostels available; of course, you won’t find much luxury there, but these places are good for budget accommodation.
If you are looking for luxury hotels then, Four Seasons, Sofitel or the Kempinski are the best options. You must also keep in mind that due to official religion as Islam, alcohol isn’t served in many hotels. If you are an alcohol addict, or if it is important for you, it is advised you should check before reservation.
6. Markets and Shopping
Local Shopping Area
Shopping also depends on how much money can you spend. If you are looking for souvenirs Khan el Khalili market is a good option. This market is a net of streets and even if the main road is crowded, you can explore different small streets and best deals. For other best deals and variety of quality items, you can explore Groupon. If you are looking for branded clothing, then visit City Stars Mall. It is a seven-story building with theaters and restaurants.
For cheap clothing you can always visit Downtown; the best thing about these shops is that whatever they have is already shown in the windows. You can go inside the store if you have selected something by looking at it in the window – saves a lot of time.
7. Festivals and Events
The official religion of the country is Islam with almost 90 % population Muslim. Although there are many events, one worth mentioning is the holy month of Ramadan. During this month the whole atmosphere of the city is changed. People fast from Morning Prayer to sunset. Everyone regrets his past evil deeds and begs for forgiveness. If you are in Cairo for partying, the month of Ramadan is not a good choice for you because most of the clubs and party centers are close in this month.
Eid el Adha – The Biggest Festival
The biggest festival of the people here is Eid el Adha when people slaughter different animals for sacrifice. This festival has a long history dating back to Ibrahim – a prophet of Muslims – who tried to sacrifice his son on the God’s command.
8. Getting Around
There are three transportation services in Cairo – taxis, metro, and buses.
It is not recommended that new visitors should visit in buses because you won’t be able to figure out the routes. Even if the courses are mentioned on the bus – which most of the time are not – you won’t be able to comprehend it because everything is written in Arabic. A person standing in the door of the bus just shouts the name of a particular location at which the bus has arrived. Even though all this is fun, you can enjoy it if you know Arabic or know the routes by yourself.
The metro is easy to use and is also immaculate. There are separate compartments for men and women, and you can travel on the subway on very low fixed prices. The only problem is that you cannot access all the areas by metro, so it is a good idea to use a combination of metro and taxi.
There are three types of taxis in Cairo. The cheapest is the black one – since it’s the oldest one – and it doesn’t have any meter. You have to negotiate a price with the driver before getting on otherwise your trip on this taxi will end by an outrageous demand of a price by the cab driver. Other taxis are white ones and are more comfortable and have a meter. The third types of taxis are yellow ones and are most reliable. You can hire these taxis or book in advance in case you want to reach the airport on time.
9. Best Side Trips
Cairo has multiple locations to visit and in just three hours you can move from sea to desert.
The pyramids of Saqqara, Dahshur, and Memphis:
Most visitors are content with pyramids of Giza, and they don’t even know whether there are other pyramids as well. Dahshur has three pyramids, and this place is least visited by tourists and therefore is less crowded with people. Memphis was the ancient capital of Egypt and also contains some pyramids.
Ein El Sokhna
Ein El Sokhna is the closest beach resort in Cairo, and you can visit it by driving east for two hours. There are no coral reefs, but the place is quiet and beautiful.
It is hoped that the portrayal of these experiences will give you an insight into the rather paradoxical city of Cairo which will be beneficial for you in your future travels to this city.